Sarvis Trees: Harbingers of Spring

It’s spring here in my country home. A friend was telling me about the Sarvis tree, also called Service Berry tree. It is one of the first woodland bloomers in the Spring. The tree also produces a fruit, which is edible and normally made into a pretty pink jelly with a tart apple-like flavor.

An old issue of Smoky Mountain News says:

In A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America (Houghton Mifflin, 1950), naturalist Donald Culross Peattie provides the following explanation for the common name: “It is from the fruits that the sarvisberry takes its name, for the word is a transformation of the ‘sorbus’ given by the Romans to a related kind of fruit. ‘Sarvis’ is a good Shakespearean English of the most classic Latin.” The Oxford English Dictionary provides “sarvice” and “sarves” as variant forms of “service” when applied to one of the European pear trees (Pyrus domestica).

I am asking a friend who has Sarvis trees around his home to mark them with a ribbon now while the trees are in bloom. I’d like to gather the ripe berries later and try my hand at making Sarvis jelly.

The University of Connecticut tells the following about the Sarvis tree:


  • red fruit
  • pome fruit
  • 0.25″ to 0.33″ in diameter
  • ripens in June
  • favorite of birds


  • white flowers
  • flowers borne in pendulous racemes
  • 2″ to 4″ long
  • blooms early spring
  • showy but short-lived


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